Deriving its name from Queen Victoria, and marked by her long reign and storied marriage to Prince Albert, the Victorian era was known for strict societal and courtship rules and romantic and sentimental symbolism. Because Queen Victoria’s reign lasted for over 63 years, the era saw many changes in the favored styles of jewelry. This fairly wide variety of styles makes Victorian-inspired jewelry a perfect option for many brides.
Guide to Victorian Engagement Rings
What Was the Victorian Era?
The Victorian era spanned from 1837 to 1901, all the years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The period was marked by advances in the industrial, political, and scientific realms that ushered in intense societal change. A focus on military strength also led to a great expansion of the British Empire. But what is often recalled the most about the Victorian era is the incredible love story between Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert.
Queen Victoria loved jewelry, and as a fashionable young royal, she had quite an influence on styles of the era. When Albert proposed, he presented Victoria with a gold ring in the shape of a serpent – a symbol of renewal and lasting love. During the early years of marriage, Victoria tended to prefer this type of jewelry with great symbolism and delicate, romantic motifs. After the deaths of her husband and her mother, Victoria shifted from her simple, more subtle jewelry toward large, grandiose jewelry often featuring richly colored gemstones.
Victorian style engagement ring
Features of Victorian Engagement Rings
Famed jewelry house Cartier became the official jewelry supplier to King Edward, popularizing an approach to jewelry that was innovative and fashion-led. In a move against industrialization throughout society, handcrafted jewelry was back as the height of fashion, and the style became detailed and ethereal with the help of the Art Nouveau movement.
Yellow & Rose Gold
A defining characteristic of Victorian engagement rings is the metal. Rings of the Victorian era are practically always yellow or rose gold. It wasn’t until close to the turn of the century – around 1890 or so – that platinum became popular and was used to create common motifs like lace-type filigrees, ribbons, and hearts.
The romantic feel of warmer metals like yellow and rose gold was very appealing to the Victorians. Also, with the California Gold Rush of 1849, gold became more accessible and less expensive, available in a variety of karatage. Victorians loved combining these metals with colorful gemstones as well as diamonds.
There is something undeniably luxurious about yellow and rose gold. In our Blanca, we incorporated a bit of everything Victorian-style with a gorgeous halo, surprising pops of emeralds, sapphires, and rubies, metal sculpted into delicate blooming flowers, and engraved flourishes on the band. Our Treblis is another Victorian-style stunner, this time in rose gold with a diamond halo and diamond clusters on either side of the center oval cut diamond.
Decorative Patterns on Metal
As Queen Victoria shifted into bolder, more elaborate jewelry, ring designers followed suit with their offerings. Filigree of abstract patterns, floral motifs, and even depictions of living things like lovebirds, adorned the bands of engagement rings. Molding and shaping the metal into hearts was also very popular.
Other decorative metalwork showed up in the serpent engagement ring. From the moment that Albert gave Victoria her engagement ring featuring a coiled serpent with an emerald set in the head, the serpent ring, as it came to be called, was a sought after style. A very romantic motif for the time, the top part of the band features an elaborately carved design, usually of a serpent’s head meeting its tail.
Modern interpretations of decorative metalwork can create a romantic appeal to any engagement ring. For our Rayna, we’ve covered every expanse of the band with delicate hand-engraved, flowing metal flourishes and peek-a-boo sapphires on the prongs. Our Skyla features delicate engraved scrollwork on the band and milgrain surrounding side diamonds on top of an intricate cathedral setting.
Favorite Diamond Cuts
Large diamonds were uncommon during the Victorian era. They weren’t easy to come by in the 19th century. But they became more widely available after the 1866 discovery of a major diamond lode in South Africa. When these diamond mines were opened to the jewelry trade, larger diamonds started to become more featured in engagement rings.
Advances in diamond cutting technology led to the advent of the old European cut diamond – the precursor of the modern round brilliant cut. Also very popular for the time was the old mine cut, which is an older version of the cushion cut. The old mine cut dates back to the 1700s and was considered an ideal cut for a diamond to be worn by candlelight.
While hard to find, old European cut diamonds exude a sentimental feel for the era. Hamma is the epitome of this old world charm when set with a 2.6 carat old European cut diamond in a platinum band and set in an ornate basket. Gina also has a distinct Victorian-inspired look when set with a modern day cushion cut diamond surrounded by a delicate halo of diamonds and diamond clusters on the band.
Queen Victoria had a soft spot for opals, and drove up the popularity of that stone. It was also quite common for Victorian engagement rings to be constructed around the bride’s birthstone. Other popular gemstones included sapphires, rubies, emeralds, amethysts, garnets, and turquoise.
The design of rings that featured a colored center stone often had smaller diamonds as accent stones. Once diamonds were used more regularly for center stones, colorful gemstones and pearls or opals were regularly used to surround the diamonds in halos, clusters or simply in rows on the bands.
Bold and colorful is a perfect way to embody the energy and ideal of the Victorian era. Andora has that perfect mix with a round cut center diamond completely encircled in custom-cut emeralds for a gorgeous halo set in yellow gold. Floris pairs a floral halo of sapphires around diamond set in a handcarved band.
Halos, Clusters & Three-Stone Rings
It wasn’t until later in the Victorian era that the solitaire setting was introduced and became wildly popular. In 1886, Tiffany & Co. debuted their now-iconic six prong solitaire setting. It allowed more light to enter the diamond, amplifying its brilliance. While this became a very popular engagement ring style, especially in later decades, the Victorian era is much more associated with halos, clusters, and three-stone rings.
Surrounding colored gemstones with diamond halos, or a diamond stone with a colorful halo, was a mainstay of the Victorian era. Clusters of small diamonds were also heavily featured, either on their own or combined with a larger gemstone. And three-stone rings were incredibly popular with either a diamond center stone flanked by two colored gemstones or a colored gemstone in the center flanked by two diamonds.
In the world of diamond accent stones on engagement rings, Victorian era styles have many options. In our Fiona, a sculpted wave-like halo of diamonds surround a round brilliant cut diamond leading into a split shank band with delicate milgrain throughout. Our Delexie pairs a stunning cushion cut ruby with simple round cut side diamonds and a pavé-set, yellow gold band.
If a vintage-inspired engagement ring is your ideal look for an engagement ring, taking a page from the Victorian era and Queen Victoria’s own personal style is a great place to turn. With stunning metalwork details, an array of colorful gemstones, and delicate, romantic motifs or big and bold pieces to choose from, Victorian engagement rings are sure to offer something for everyone.